To illustrate the doctrine of reconciliation, we see man and God hopelessly separated by “The Wall,” an impassable barrier. The barrier constitutes MANKIND’S PROBLEM. In this section of our study we will examine the second brick in the wall and learn how GOD’S SOLUTION removed it at the cross.
THE BARRIER, MAN’S PROBLEM:
The second brick is the penalty for sin. “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). When Adam chose to disobey God in the Garden of Eden, he brought the penalty of spiritual death crashing down upon the entire human race (Romans 5:12). As a result we come into this world spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1, 5; 2 Corinthians 5:14; Colossians 2:13). By our very nature we are born enemies of God (Romans 5:10) and children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3). As a result, man has a problem.
Here is the part where I get to tell you a story.
God created Adam, and he was perfect (ladies, don’t even try to envision this man, he doesn’t exist anymore than does the Garden of Eden). Then God told him to go out into the world and give everything a name (Geneses 2). However, during the process, Adam noticed a discrepancy in Eden between God’s creation and himself. All the creatures he had been observing, naming and categorizing came in pairs. All but he, and he alone, had a mate. And so, he discovered a feeling he had never experienced before. He became lonely. It was not a very nice feeling. It hurt, way down deep inside, in a place that he had not ever even known existed. It was then, I believe, that the first tear fell and trickled down the face of humankind.
Since the only real friend Adam had ever known was his Father, God, he raised his eyes to heaven and wondered, “What would it be like, to touch the face of another of my kind? What would it be like to be with someone and share life? And so, he wandered, and he felt something that he had never felt before. He felt desire. What must that have been like? To want to love a woman, having never met one, and to want to be a father, having never experienced anything outside of what went on in the animal kingdom to which he was confined.
Then God looked down at His only man child, and He felt compassion. Yahweh was the first to speak, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him” (Genesis 2:18). And that’s how it happened; how the world of humanity came into existence. It all began in a garden.
In the beginning they were happy, Adam and his beautiful bride, Eve. At sunset, Yahweh would come to the garden and they would walk together. Then they would sit and talk, in the cool of the day. They stood together, shoulder to shoulder and marveled at the sunset, as the world around them closed their heavy eyelids and drifted off peacefully to a place that has long been forbidden to us.
But there was evil crouching in that pristine forest behind them. It was lurking behind the bushes, waiting for just the right moment, patient until the time was right. And, in stride with all else, alliances were being formed. And strategies, woven by a serpent, slithering along the damp forest floor. Evil plans were being formulated by a wicked monster. A creature, a dark thing, bent on destruction of all that God had created, blessed, and brought into existence.
And all the while, this force, this thing, this creature with only one obsession, laughing, snickering really, an evil sound unbridled by conscience, or anything holy was merely masterminding his own destruction. But that is a story I shall reserve for another day.
THE CROSS, GOD’S SOLUTION:
“What was their crime?”
This is a picture of real people being escorted to their unjust execution. Why would I show you this? Because I want you to think about something. Life and death is not about justice. It’s a choice. If you want to understand the purpose of life, than you need to understand the creator and sustainer of life. He is not without a plan. Everything He has ever done has a purpose, and it includes you. Please listen carefully to what I am about to say.
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I reiterate, “What was their crime?”
“And for that they must die?”
“Doesn’t seem fair.”
“It’s not. So God stepped in”
God’s solution to the problem of the penalty for sin is expiation. The word expiation means to pay the penalty for a crime committed and thereby atone for a wrong that was done. When Adam and Eve were placed in The Garden they were given a command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:17a). The penalty for disobedience was instant death (Genesis 2:17b). Since Adam continued to live to be over nine hundred years old (Genesis 5:5), the death that he died on the day that he ate the fruit must have been a category of death other than physical. The day Adam and Eve ate the fruit they died spiritually.
What is spiritual death? Spiritual death is separation from God. It occurs when one falls short of God’s glory or divine integrity. If God were to disregard any aspect of His divine essence in order to enter into fellowship with a fallen creature, He would, in the process, compromise His divine integrity and, as a result of that compromise, cease to be God. Since God is immutable (unchanging) and incapable of compromising any of His divine attributes, He must turn away and separate Himself from anything that is less than perfect. When Adam fell into temptation, he willfully disobeyed God. In doing so, he changed his nature from God centered to self centered. By an independent act of his own will Adam became, by nature, a child of wrath and separated from God. At this point the Adamic or sinful nature came into existence (Rom. 6:6; Eph. 4:22; Col. 3:9) and the nature of man was corrupted (Jeremiah 17:9; Eccl. 9:3) throughout all generations to come (Romans 5:12, 19; 1 Corinthians 15:22).
Repercussions of spiritual death: Since man is spiritually dead there is nothing that he can do to appease God in order to escape judgment (Romans 8:8). As we noted earlier to expiate means to make amends for committing a crime. A criminal makes amends by serving a prescribed sentence. After taking his punishment, the accused has paid his debt to society, and legally, the guilt is erased. But mankind can never repay its debt to God. Spiritually, the natural man is totally bankrupt. He owes God perfect righteousness, but is without the means to come up with it. There is none righteous, no, not one”(Romans 3:10).
Without the work of Christ on the cross, mankind would be doomed to eternal judgment; yet, God never leaves man in a hopeless situation. The substitutionairy death of Christ cancelled the staggering debt of the penalty of sin against us (Colossians 2:14). Only God’s grace can supply complete and perfect payment.
Since it is impossible for us to approach Him, God chose to come to us.
What did it cost? Acting as our substitute, Jesus Christ took upon himself the punishment for our sins. “The LORD has laid upon Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). God the Father judged those sins in His body on the cross (1 Peter 2:24). The penalty for our sins is spiritual death (Genesis 2:17).
At one point while our sins were being poured out on Jesus Christ and judged, He screamed, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34 cf. Psalms 22:1). What made Him scream? Our Lord screamed because “He (God the Father) made the one having never known sin (Christ) to be sin on our behalf, in order that we might become righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
The payment for our sins was the substitutionary spiritual death of Christ on the cross. Jesus Christ, in His humanity, suffered spiritual death on the cross so that we could have spiritual life. Because God can have no fellowship with darkness (1 John 1:5), God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit had to turn their backs on the humanity of Jesus Christ while He was being made sin for us (1 Timothy 6:16).
Jesus Christ, as the only perfect man, was qualified to pay this debt. Our Lord was the “lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). Only the perfect humanity of Christ, “a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1: 19), could accomplish salvation.
When Jesus at last said, “It is finished!” (John 19:30), His atoning work was finished and the problem of the penalty of sin was removed.
How valuable are we! David declared the creation of the universe the mere finger work of God (Psalms 8:3). Yet Isaiah says that God made bare His holy arm in the accomplishment of our salvation (Isaiah 52:10). If God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son (John 3:16), then how valuable are we and how precious must we be in His sight!